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Formosa Music Ensemble plans family-friendly concert to raise funds for Canuck Place Children’s Hospice

Formosa Music Ensemble
The Formosa Music Ensemble came together in 2022.

Motherhood must be one of the toughest jobs on the planet. And it’s even more challenging when coupled with full-time employment in the workforce. However, these responsibilities didn’t prevent Jessica Wu from responding in 2022 to a call for Taiwanese moms to join a new Vancouver music ensemble.

“We actually had to go through an audition,” Jessica tells Pancouver over Zoom. “We sent a short clip of us playing the instrument.”

This marked the birth of the nonprofit Formosa Music Ensemble. On June 2, it will perform its second annual fundraising concert at Pacific Spirit United Church to benefit Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. The leader, Natalia Tseng, initially reached out over Facebook. Now, there are nine instruments in the ensemble: two violins, two violas, two flutes, two cellos, and one piano, with about half performed by professional musicians. All but one of the players is a mother. Jessica is the vice-leader.

“The Formosa Music Ensemble aims to be a fun and playful charity group that is socially responsible through using our musical skills,” Jessica says. “Social responsibilities include but are not limited to giving back to the community, promoting Taiwanese music, and encouraging music education for children”.

Jessica played flute for many years before joining the Formosa Music Ensemble. At one point, she seriously considered enrolling in the faculty music in university before choosing another option. She is now a B.C. Public Service worker who loves performing songs in the small amount of time that she has between her job and taking care of her family.

Formosa Music Ensemble
Ensemble leader Natalia Tseng received a certification of appreciation from Canuck Place Children’s Hospice at the 2023 charity concert.

Ensemble performs Taiwanese music

The ensemble includes a small business owner, dental clinic manager, property management professional, music educators, accountant, and a couple of full-time moms.

The musicians initially took so much pleasure getting together, playing songs, and learning about each other’s hometown in Taiwan. But according to Jessica, after a couple of months they felt that they needed to do something positive for society.

So, they did some brainstorming. After discussions within the group, they decided to help the Vancouver children’s hospice, which is a registered charity.

“We’re fundraising for them because it feels like palliative care in the Asian community isn’t a topic that people want to talk about,” Jessica says. “The service that they provide is not very well known, at least within the Asian community. So, we saw it as an opportunity to promote that organization to the Asian population.”

Moreover, she thinks that a Taiwanese Canadian family would benefit from knowing about Canuck Place should they ever need its services.

The Formosa Music Ensemble is making their annual charitable concert a family-friendly affair. In addition to classical music, Jessica says that they will also perform easy-listening songs for children from Super Mario Bros. and Studio Ghibli animation studio.

“Also, a huge part of the program will be Taiwanese music,” Jessica sates. “Since we are all from Taiwan, we want to promote the culture.”

Children 10 years of age and younger will be admitted for free. Parents are allowed to walk around Pacific Spirit United Church during the concert with their kids if the children become restless.

ensemble

Musicians welcome opportunities to perform

The name “Formosa” came from 16th-century Portuguese sailors. They were the first to refer to Taiwan as Ilha Formosa, which translates to beautiful island.

In addition to raising funds for Canuck Place, the Formosa Music Ensemble has performed at several other events. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver invited the musicians to play at the reception last year for the 112th Taiwanese National Day.

The ensemble also performed at events put on by the Taiwanese Tourism Board, Taiwanese Canadian Cultural Society, and Global Federation of Chinese Business Women. In addition, they played music at a public-school fundraiser.

“As we are self-funded, we are not only practising and performing but also working on all administrative tasks ourselves,” Jessica says. “We welcome different opportunities to perform at charity, festival, or cultural events.”

The Formosa Music Ensemble will present its annual charity concert at 4 p.m. on June 2 at Pacific Spirit United Church (2195 West 45th Avenue, Vancouver). All proceeds will go to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. General admission is $15 and children 10 years and younger can attend for free. Tickets are available here.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.